Sgt.-Major Ehud Goldwasser, kidnapped by Hizbullah terrorists over two years ago, was laid to rest Thursday moroning at the Nahariya Military Cemetery. The cemetery was thronged with thousands who came to witness the final chapter of his tragic return to his native soil.
Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who was seated in the front row near the soldier's widow Karnit and his mother Miki, eulogized Goldwasser. Speaking to the IDF soldiers present, he said, "If any of you, G-d forbid, should be captured, or should anything worse happen in the fight against the terror organization – the State of Israel, its government, and the IDF will do everything just and possible to bring you home."
Barak then turned to the families, saying, "We are burying in Israeli soil the IDF warrior, Udi - your loved one, our loved one. We are adopting you into our hearts. The journey of pain is over; the never-ending journey of memory and grief begins. Our hearts are heavy, but we stand tall before the caskets of our soldiers."
Prime Minister Ehud Olmert also participated in the funeral to pay last respects to the fallen soldier. Olmert embraced Ehud's widow Karnit and wiped away tears as he stood above Ehud's casket at the emotional ceremony.
Noam Shalit, the father of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit, was also present. Palestinian terrorists associated with Hamas kidnapped Gilad Shalit during a cross-border raid on an IDF base near Gaza on June 25, 2006, and he is still being held there.
The soldiers who served with Goldwasser and Eldad Regev in their IDF reserve unit came to the funeral as well. They were released from their current tour of duty in order take part in the funerals.
Rabbi Yisrael Weiss, former Chief Rabbi of the IDF, said that the the identification process of the bodies "was very slow, because, if we thought the enemy was cruel to the living and the dead, we were surprised, when we opened the caskets, to discover just how cruel. And I'll leave it at that."
Eldad Regev's funeral was held at 2 p.m. in the military section of the main cemetery in Haifa. He is survived by his father and three brothers, who supported each other during the recitation of the Kaddish mourners' prayer and during the ceremony. Defense Minister Barak eulogized Eldad, praised the Regev family, and blessed the Haran family - three of whose members were brutally murdered in 1979 by Lebanese terrorist Samir Kuntar, who was released to Lebanon in exchange for the bodies of Regev and Goldwasser.